The Torch Award

The 2022 Torch Award Presentation

This is a not to be missed event as we celebrate a culinary leader and Florida native, while he educates us! 

The word Torch symbolizes many things including Illumination, Energy, Joy, Victory, Enlightenment, Hope and Education.

The Torch Award, presented by The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show and The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association was created to honor outstanding chefs/and or restaurateurs who embody all those qualities and characteristics. These chefs and/or restaurateurs have been chosen because of: 

  • Outstanding knowledge and leadership
  • Philanthropic and community efforts 
  • Extraordinary talent and creativity 
  • Innovation and inspiration 
Sponsored by:
Chef Jim Shirley

Our Torch Award Winner

About Chef Jim Shirley 
Jim Shirley is a chef and restaurateur in South Walton, Florida, owning Great Southern Café, 45 Central Wine and Sushi Bar, and b.f.f. in Seaside, Florida, as well as The Bay Restaurant and Farm & Fire Southern Pizzeria in South Walton. He is also co-owner of Meltdown on 30A in Seaside. Jim was previously the president of the Northwest Florida FRLA chapter and president of the Escambia County chapter. He is currently the treasurer of FRLA’s Educational Foundation. Jim sits on the board of the Children’s Home Society and was formerly on the Seaside Neighborhood School board for three years. Jim represented Florida in the 2015 Great American Seafood Cook-Off. In addition, Jim has been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City four times. He is the author of the cookbook, “Good Grits! Southern Boy Cooks,” a compilation of his best recipes along with entertaining stories. Jim is the 2020 Van Ness Butler Jr. Award recipient. In 2020, Jim was appointed as Chairman of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA).


Geoffrey Zakarian American Iron Chef,
Restaurateur, Television Personality, and Author


Caroline Styne, Sommelier & Restaurateur, The Lucques Group 

Allen Susser, Chef/Owner, Chef Allen's Consulting 

Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group;
Founder, Shake Shack

Curtis Stone, Chef/Owner, Maude & Gwen

Michelle Bernstein, Chef/Owner, Crumb on Parchment
& Michelle Bernstein Catering 

Drew Nieporent, Owner, Myriad Restaurant Group 

Thomas Keller, Chef & Proprietor,
The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group 

Melissa Kelly, Executive Chef & Proprietor, Primo

Mary Sue Milliken, Co-Chef-Owner, 
Border Grill Restaurants + Truck

Susan Feniger, Co-Chef-Owner,
Border Grill Restaurants + Truck

Norman Van Aken, Chef-Owner,
Norman's at the Ritz Carlton, Grande Lakes

James & Julie Petrakis - Ravenous Pig

James & Julie Petrakis, Chef-Owners,
The Ravenous Pig